13th to 17th August

Wednesday 13 August

We enjoy a lazy morning. We get up at 7h, after sunrise. We take our time to have breakfast and try to see the Popa falls. But it’s more like rapids than real falls. So it’s not really impressive, despite the sound of the water that can be heard from far away.

We go to the supermarket of the gas station, the only one before dozens of kilometres. The shelves are half empty, with many products missing! Well, it looks like a soviet supermarket.Outside, the children are inquisitive…

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As we leave Divundu, we enter the Caprivi Game Reserve. It’s a 200km long reserve, with nearly no one, and with a reasonable chance (risk?) to see wild animals like antelopes, elephants or even lions.

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The road is tarred, without much traffic, but vital to export goods from Caprivi region, and around Livingstone, to the rest of the world through Walvis Bay. It is strait for dozens of kilometres (and today, the wind is against us! what a surprise!). We cover 80km in the park, with maybe 4 or 5 light curves in total.

We pass nearby the village of Omega I at the end of the afternoon. The centre of the village is a little aside off the road, maybe 1kmthrough a gravel road. A lot of people are idle, only waiting. The mothers are carrying the children from one place to another. Some elders are drunk. But everyone is smiling, has time, and seems happy to see foreigners (maybe expecting the sweets they ask us). Along the road, we now have kilometres of small scattered straw and wood houses, with a few goats and chickens around. We keep cycling until the last house and people from the village are out of sight, then we take a path to get away from the road.

We choose a spot for the tent:

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not to be seen from the main road, with a reasonable flat and smooth ground, not under a tree (for snakes could climb the tree and fall on the tent). We also check for animal signs, like footprints or broken branches (from elephants). Then we cook, 50m away from the tent, in a place where we make sure not to create a bush fire. Once we have finished dinner, we gather all the food in two panniers, which we hang in a tree, a little further from the tent. We tie the bikes to a tree, and we place all the panniers and bottles we can around the inner tent to prevent snakes to crawl under it in research for heat. Ideally, we should have done this before it’s totally dark in order not to use our light and give out our position to everyone, but we are a little late. We also positioned the oil bottle near the entrance, to be able to light a fire in case we are attacked by predators. We hang the shoes in the tent, to prevent scorpions (in search for heat) from entering them. Of course, we always keep the tent closed for the mosquitoes. After all these precautions, we can try to sleep, among a concert of strange animal shouts.

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Thursday 14 August

We get up at 4! We are still alive! And the food is still hanging in the tree! After breakfast and packing the tent, we can leave, just at sunrise. The temperature is a little cold, but it warms soon enough. There is very little traffic on the road.

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We see many elephant dungs along the road, footprints, broken branches or trees (elephants like to eat the bark), elephants on the road signs, but no real elephant. What a deception! In fact, the only interesting animal of these two days is a toad, sunbathing in the middle of the road, that we saved from an imminent transformation to a crepe.

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We pedal well this morning, despite a constant front wind. We make a short break every half an hour (and 10km). So we arrive at 13h at the exit of the reserve. The village of Kongola should not be far anymore.

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We have lunch at the reception of the park, talking with the officer. Suddenly, a touring cyclist comes from the other direction. Li Jian Bo is Chinese, and has cycled down Africa, from Egypt till here, despite all the visa problems he has with his Chinese passport. His bicycle is a total mess, with a blanket, a fishing rod, a slingshot!

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Finally, we leave and head to a lodge and camping. 2km on a sandy road, very sandy! but once there, we see a desolated place for camping, and we have to pay a lot for it. Ok, we’ll see further. But we have to go fast, because it’s sunset soon. Aswe enter the village of Kongola, a divine surprise comes in the form of a B&B. Perfect! We’ll enjoy a good bed, shower and electricity!

Friday 15 August

We get up at 4h, and leave before sunrise. As we go east now, the sun rises (and sets) everyday a little earlier. We enjoy that there is no wind in the early morning to cover a great distance. And it works, at 8h, we have already done 52km. Now that we are out of the park, we see many villages on the way. Always the same scene of several houses of adobe, a straw roof, and some wooden or straw fence around.

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Some adults are here, idle. And the children appear, super excited, running towards us, saying “Hello” or “Give me sweets”. The mothers carry their baby on the back, holding it with a piece of fabric, not so different from the Indians in Bolivia. The teenagers walk relaxed along the road. It seems this world will always remain the same, impermeable to the stress and complexity we know in Europe. And suddenly, all the faces shine with a smile when we salute them, and they answer back. Many children have a toy made of plastic lids and wire ! built in the shape of a car. Each one carries it, with a leash like a dog, and they seem very proud of it.

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The road outside the villages, is rather boring. As the day warms up, there are more mirages than turns. Also, it looks drier than in the park, and quite dirty, with plastic, cans and many broken glass. We meet another German touring cyclist, Roland Grebner, who left Malawi a few weeks ago, and goes till Windhoek. Here is his blog.

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We arrive in Katima Mulilo at12h30. We find a guest house, held by Chinese! they are everywhere!, and we go for a lunch. The afternoon is relaxed, between attempts to access internet (without success), hairdresser’s and shopping for cereals. It’s maybe the last Pick & Pay supermarket we meet (it’s a South African chain), and we buy more than 10kg of cereals, we just love them. It’ll be enough till Lusaka, hopefully.

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Saturday 16 August

This morning, we’ll take our time. So we set the alarm at 5h30! After breakfast, we go around 9h30, for some music shopping in Katima Mulilo, then leave the city. We have two options for going to Livingstone: whether we cross the Zambeze river here to Shesheke in Zambia and then follow the road till Livingstone, or we go to Botswana, then cross the border to Zambia at the quadripoint. We choose this second option because in Botswana, we’ll cross the Chobe park, which has a lot of animals.

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We have 70km till the border with Botswana, and a strong front wind slows us down. We cross the border at 15h, without problems! but it is forbidden to cycle in the park. So we’ll have to get a lift.

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Finally, at sunset, we embark on the back of a pick-up, to cross the park. On the road, we see many elephants with babies among them, and lions, including one lioness in the middle of the road. Finally, the interdiction for bikes was justified, and we’re happy for it!

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We arrive at night at a campsite between Kasane and Kazangula. We’ll take the ferry tomorrow morning to enter Zambia.

Sunday 17 August

After a nice sleep, we leave Kazangula for the border, on the Zambeze river. There is a queue of trucks for many kilometres. We arrive at the quadripoint: a point in the middle of the Zambeze river, where 4 countries meet: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It’s the only place on Earth where 4 countries meet in a point!

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The “ferry” is just a barge that can accommodate one truck and several passengers. Only two of them are operating, so imagine the delay for crossing! some truck drivers have been waiting here for 3 days already. Of course, there is a project to build a bridge, but no one knows when it will start. The boat crosses from Botswana to Zambia, passing some instant in Zimbabwean waters. So we are within 5 minutes in three countries, looking at a fourth one.

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As soon as we enter Zambia, we observe the poorer conditions. People have a lot more children here. There is trash on both sides along the road (papers, plastics, broken glass). And the road is full of huge potholes. First, we have a late breakfast (or early lunch).

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Today again, we have head wind, and it is strong. The 70km till Livingstone are never-ending. We meet another German cyclotourist, coming from Lilongwe to Windhoek (It seems this route is very attractive for retired German people…)

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Near the city, we cross the Mosi-Oa-Tunya park, and see some giraffes crossing the road, just in front.

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Today is Sunday, and most of the things are closed in Livingstone. So we head for a camping site, and we have to choose meticulously because we’ll stay here 8 nights, waiting for Dominika, a Polish friend who will join us for the last stage till Lusaka. We visit three campsites: Waterfront, Bushfront, and Maramba, and in the end decide for Bushfront, for being cheaper and with a nice, understanding staff. Tonight, we are exhausted, but happy that we can finally rest.

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As expected, you can see the video here: